They look like something aliens might have created, but the large-scale snow circles spread around the Les Arcs sky resort, in the French Alps, are actually the work of one man – British artist Simon Beck.
Using an orienteering compass, measuring tape and a pair of snowshoes, 54-year-old Simon Beck turns the hills and frozen lakes around Les Arcs into geometrically-perfect immaculate masterpieces. His intricate prints are huge, often spanning the equivalent size of six football fields, but while you’d be tempted to think Beck needs at least several days to complete just one of these patterns, he really only needs about 10 hours, on average. Hard to believe, considering they’re all done by walking with snow shoes, but Mr. Beck doesn’t mind the exercise. In fact, that’s what made him take up the unusual habit. Because of some problems with his feet, the artist cannot run anymore, so plodding on level snow was the least painful way of getting some exercise. And he’s not one to hold back, walking around in the snow until he’s completely exhausted, and using a headlamp if it gets dark first.
When they see his geometrical and abstract works, most people think they are inspired by crop circles, but in reality, Simon Beck draws inspiration for his art from the rakings left in the sand gardens of Kyoto temples. Ever since the winter of 2004, when he first started making his large-scale snow circles, Simon Beck has created hundreds of patterns, most of which are posted on his Facebook page. “It just seemed a natural thing to do,” Beck says about his first ever snow print. He didn’t have snow shoes on, but walking in the snow he created a five-point star. After it was covered with snow, he made a bigger ten-pointed star, and soon he found a frozen lake where he could create an even bigger design, but the snow was too deep, so he decided to use snowshoes. Beck’s art gradually evolved from that point on and now the creative process has become a ritual of sorts.
The 54-year old starts out by drawing a sketch of what he wants his snow artwork to look like. Then he starts looking for wide snow-covered areas where tourists won’t ruin his work before he gets a chance to take a photo of it. He makes sure the area has a low risk of avalanches, and if it’s a frozen lake that the ice is thick enough to trample on. He uses a orienteering compass and measuring tape to make sure his artworks are as accurate as possible, and counts his paces. Simon says the process is as enjoyable as it is exhausting, and compares completing one of his works to climbing halfway up Mont Blanc.
Simon Beck has big plans for 2013. After making his art around Les Arcs for the last 8 years, he plans to travel to Norway and leave his (foot)mark on the frozen landscape there, as well. You can check out more of his magnificent creations on Facebook.